Military Wiki
SS Rufus King
StateLibQld 1 70635 Rufus King (ship).jpg
Rufus King broken in two after hitting sandbar.
Name: Rufus King
Owner: Maritime Administration
Operator: War Shipping Administration
Port of registry: Los Angeles, California
Builder: California Shipbuilding, Los Angeles CA
Way number: 14
Laid down: 6 October 1941
Launched: 11 March 1942
Completed: 29 May 1942
  • U.S. Official Number: 241607
  • Signal: KEVQ[1]
Notes: The vessel does not appear in Merchant Vessels of the United States for fiscal year ending June 30, 1942 and only appears in the 1943 registry as a casualty (with location error) so some U.S. registry details are missing. Lloyd's Register has GRT corrected and some dimensions stricken.
General characteristics [2]
Type: Liberty (EC2-S-C1)
Tonnage: 7,176 GRT, 4,380 NRT, 10,807 DWT
Displacement: 14,230 tons
Length: 422 ft (128.6 m)
Beam: 57 ft (17.4 m)
Depth: 27.8 ft (8.5 m)
Propulsion: Triple expansion 3 cyl steam engine[1]
Speed: 12.5 kn (14.4 mph; 23.2 km/h)
Capacity: 499,573 cu ft (14,146.3 m3) (bale)

SS Rufus King was a standard Liberty ship built in the United States during World War II. She was named after Rufus King and was wrecked in July 1942, upon Amity Bar aouth of Moreton Island and north of North Stradbroke Island, Queensland, Australia.

Cargo included nine crated bombers and medical supplies for twelve hospitals totaling 4,000 beds. The loss of the medical cargo would have been disastrous for medical service to forces in Australia. More than 85% of that cargo was salvaged by Australian salvage crews and U.S. Army medical personnel.

Ownership of the bow section was transferred to the U.S. Army, salvaged and converted in Australia into a repair facility for supporting the U.S. Army Small Ships Section water craft and vessels and dubbed "Half Rufus"[note 1] serving at Milne Bay and Finschhafen during the New Guinea Campaign through 1945.

The stern section remains in place and is now a dive site.

Rufus King

Rufus King was a standard Liberty (EC2-S-C1) ship laid down 6 October 1941 as Maritime Commission hull 280, yard hull number 14, at California Shipbuilding Corporation (CalShip), Los Angeles, California. The ship was launched 11 March 1942 and delivered to the War Shipping Administration (WSA) on 29 May after 156 days on the ways, 79 in the water fitting out for a total construction time of 235 days.[2][3] The ship, U.S. Official Number 241607, was operated at delivery for WSA by its agent, Pacific Far East Line, Coastwise entity under a General Agency Agreement (GAA). Rufus King operated under charter through WSA by the Army Transport Service.[2]

File:S.S. RUFUS KING, (U.S. merchant cargo ship, 1942-1942).jpg

The wreck of the U.S. Liberty ship Rufus King off Moreton Island, Australia, August 1942. The deck cargo has not yet been salvaged.

The ship, inward bound to Brisbane from Los Angeles, was wrecked 7 July 1942 on Amity Bar between Moreton Island and North Stradbroke Island, Queensland, Australia after apparently mistaking the south passage for the north west passage around the island. The cargo, including surgical equipment to equip nine station and three general hospitals, totaling 4,000 beds, and nine crated B-25 Mitchell bombers,[note 2] was salvaged and there was no loss of life.[4][5][6]

A disastrous effect on Army medical services in the South West Pacific theater was avoided when high seas abatement made salvage possible. An Australian salvage crew of over 200 with U.S. Army medical personnel salvaged more than 85% of the 17,200 boxes of medical cargo which then had to be dried and rehabilitated at the Brisbane medical supply depot.[5]

Bow section transfer to U.S. Army

Title to the bow section was passed to the Army which was billed $12,500.[2] The bow was salvaged by the Commonwealth Marine Salvage Board, taken over by the U.S. Army Small Ships Section and equipped with coal bunkers and a vertical boiler for power. A machine shop for repairing equipment and vessels and fuel oil bunkers for refueling other vessels was installed. The salvaged bow was given the Small Ships Section number S-129 and dubbed "Half Rufus" then it was towed to Milne Bay, arriving 21 June 1944. After being moved to Finschhafen repair equipment was transferred to a barge in April 1945 and the bow section then used as a coal hulk.[7][8]


The wreck of the stern portion lies just outside the breakers on the western side of the south passage between Moreton Island and North Stradbroke Island attracting fish and divers.[4] A local seafood market in Amity Point and Brisbane is apparently named for the ship.[9]


  1. Some Australian sources use a reversed "Rufus Half" instead.
  2. Photo of ship before salvage of deck cargo shows crates on after decks.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Lloyds. "Lloyd's Register 1942-43". Lloyd's Register. Retrieved 30 May 2021. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Maritime Administration. "Rufus King". Ship History Database Vessel Status Card. U.S. Department of Transportation, Maritime Administration. Retrieved 30 May 2021. 
  3. Colton, Tim (April 26, 2017). "California Shipbuilding, Los Angeles CA". ShipbuildingHistory. Retrieved 30 May 2021. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Moreton Bay, Moreton Island and Nth Stradbroke". Marine Life Network. Retrieved 1 June 2021. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 Heaton, Leonard D.; Anderson, Robert S.; Wiltse, Charles M. (1968). Medical Supply in World War II, Medical Department, United States Army. Medical Department, United States Army in World War II. Washington, D.C.: Office of the Surgeon General, Department of the Army. p. 410. LCCN 68061753. Retrieved 1 June 2021. 
  6. "SS Rufus King". The Wrecksite. 2021. Retrieved 30 May 2021. 
  7. Masterson, Dr. James R. (1949). U. S. Army Transportation In The Southwest Pacific Area 1941-1947. Washington, D. C.: Transportation Unit, Historical Division, Special Staff, U. S. Army. p. 530. 
  8. Lunney, Bill; Finch, Frank (1995). Forgotten Fleet: a history of the part played by Australian men and ships in the U.S. Army Small Ships Section in New Guinea, 1942-1945. Medowie, NSW, Australia: Forfleet Publishing. p. 147. ISBN 0646260480. LCCN 96150459. 
  9. "Rufus King Seafoods Amity Point". Google Maps.,153.4196171,6050m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x6b93d6dc3111aeb9:0x4a70d7f0f17960de!8m2!3d-27.3950182!4d153.4458605?hl=en. Retrieved 31 May 2021. 

External links

Coordinates: 27°22′40.12″S 153°27′53.67″E / 27.3778111°S 153.4649083°E / -27.3778111; 153.4649083

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).